In my last blog I discussed my journey from an ‘antenna-out’ to an ‘antenna-in’ approach to life. When I was controlled by the ‘antenna-out’ approach I allowed the reactions and needs of others to decide how I behaved. Switching to the ‘antenna-in’ approach I stay centred to myself and make decisions based on me and my wants and needs.
I wanted to try to explain how I go about doing this.
Very simply I use the techniques I’ve learned in yoga and mindfulness; awareness of myself in the present moment here and now. Ok sounds great huh! But still – what does that mean and how do I do it? I will try to explain using an example:
I’m at a social gathering. I feel like I have had enough and I’d like to leave. With my antenna out I’m busy trying to interpret what other people might want or think in order to decide if I could leave yet. I’m wondering if they will be upset if I leave early? will it seem impolite? antisocial? will I be invited again? has anyone else already left thereby also giving me ‘permission’ to do so? All these thoughts render me anywhere but grounded in my own awareness. I feel confused, anxious, a social failure. This general sense of bewilderment and disorientation is usually a sure fire clue that I’m not centred or true to myself, in other words high time to tune in.
I turn my attention inward by starting to focus on the contact points between my body and the hard physical surfaces I’m sitting or standing on. I feel the weight through my sitting bones, I feel the backrest of the chair behind me. After this I observe my breath, just simply tune my focus to feel the air moving in and out of my body. This routine in it’s own right lessens the stress in my body and alleviates some tension and tiredness. It also creates that space I need to listen to my body and come to a decision as to how to respond so I can best take care of myself. I do this routine as often as I can throughout every day and takes only seconds. (But can take longer in the beginning when your body is unused to it.)
After doing this quick body scan I discover my eyes are squinting, my breath is shallow, my stomach muscles are tight, but these feelings were just on the periphery of my awareness until I actively turned my antenna inward. These physical observations are what is referred to as the body’s signal’s and we need to learn to read these; it can take time to gain experience and learn the language of the body. These signals in me mean that I’m getting too tired and am in a state of tension. In order to take care of my own wellbeing I need to retreat and regain balance in my system.
Retreating might mean just keeping my antenna in and focussing on my breathing for a few moments, just listening passively and observing instead of being actively engaged. This will help me regain some balance, but if my system has reached capacity I can choose to smile and gently leave the gathering and return to the warm cocoon of calm in my own company.
It takes a lot of self compassion to take the decision that nourishes ourselves especially if social etiquette, others, or indeed our own expectations are urging us to do something else. For many years I’ve stayed too long at such gatherings believing I was ‘doing time’ – putting in the hours in order to maintain my social contacts. But in fact I was injuring myself, slowly gnawing away at my energy until I had nothing left and I burned out (this is just one example, this pattern can be seen and translated into all other areas of life too).
The most amazing thing I’ve found since actually putting the antenna in approach into action is the amount of praise and admiration I receive from those around me. They are overjoyed that I feel so comfortable with them and with myself that I can retreat when I need. They are in awe and wish they could do it themselves. This response has been quite unexpected and I share it with the hope it will encourage others to do likewise without so much fear.
I am a physiotherapist and yoga therapist, if you are interested in learning any of the techniques described in this blog please visit my website:
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